TikTok Will Be Removing More Songs As UMG Dispute Continues

More changes hit TikTok as songs from artists like Harry Styles are vanishing and videos that contained those songs are being muted on the app. This is due to the growing dispute between TikTok and Universal Music Group. This affects both artists signed to UMG as well as many others in the industry.


What Sparked the Dispute?


The tension began in January after the contract between Universal and TikTok expired. Efforts to renew the agreement did present, but failed, and this led to the removal of Universal’s large catalogue of music from the platform.

This affected TikTok’s user base as the available music choices were limited. Deadline aside, both sides still have not agreed on terms, so more music removals will take place as negotiations continue to stall.


What Did Universal Initially Say?


On January 30, 2024, Universal Music Group released an open letter to the artist and songwriter community. They expressed their commitment to ensuring fair compensation and protection against the misuse of AI for their artists and songwriters.

Universal criticised TikTok for offering payments “at a rate that is a fraction” of what other platforms provide, stating, “TikTok accounts for only about 1% of our total revenue.”

They accused TikTok of using intimidation tactics and not addressing issues like hate speech and content infringement. “TikTok’s tactics are obvious: use its platform power to hurt vulnerable artists,” they argued, underlining their refusal to accept a deal that “undervalues music and shortchanges artists and songwriters.”


How Did TikTok Respond?


TikTok responded to Universal’s allegations on January 30, 2024, expressing disappointment over Universal’s stance. The platform defended itself by stating it serves as a “free promotional and discovery vehicle” for Universal’s talent, reaching over a billion users.

TikTok claimed it had successfully reached agreements with other labels and publishers that put artists first, implying that Universal’s actions were self-serving and not in the best interests of artists, songwriters, or fans.

“Clearly, Universal’s self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans,” TikTok stated, challenging Universal’s narrative.


TikTok’s Updated Statement


On Feb 28, TikTok released a statement with an update:

“We are in the process of carrying out Universal Music Group’s requirement to remove all songs that have been written (or co-written) by a songwriter signed to Universal Music Publishing Group, based on information they have provided.

“Their actions not only affect the songwriters and artists that they represent, but now also impact many artists and songwriters not signed to Universal. We remain committed to reaching an equitable agreement with Universal Music Group.

“In the meantime, music lovers can continue to enjoy, discover and share millions of tracks from artists, songwriters and labels on TikTok, and we will continue to connect all artists – including those whose music is not currently available on our platform – with their fans.”


How Are Artists and Users Reacting?


Artists are caught in the crossfire, unsure whom to blame. While some criticise TikTok for not valuing music, others are frustrated with Universal. TikTok users, initially upset, have adapted by turning to other songs. On the bright side, the standoff has led to increased visibility for non-Universal tracks on the platform, from independent artists, especially.